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The Ostrich Effect (A Review)

08/24/2016 by Alyson Nyiri, CHRL

The Ostrich Effect: Solving Destructive Patterns at Work

By William Kahn
Routledge, 2016

Dysfunction in the workplace can take years to develop, arriving with stealth and imbedding itself into much of the organization’s programs, people and divisions. In The Ostrich Effect, Kahn surfaces how dysfunction occurs, using detailed examples in each chapter to illustrate the process and demonstrate the fix. Kahn cites familiar experts to deepen his analysis and explore his view of human behaviour, which he calls the Ostrich Effect: when individuals are not simply the source of troubling issues but are the signals of disturbances in the relationships, groups, and organizations. Kahn offers an absorbing look at how organizations, large and small, can halt the damage and begin to reverse its effects. Most difficult is to acknowledge the depth and pervasiveness of avoidance and denial when trying to manage organizational crises. Suppression is at the core of the Ostrich Effect. Surfacing emotions within an organizational context is now more than ever seen as appropriate, transformative and ultimately restorative.

Point of interest

Leaders must frame and tell stories that make meanings organizational members find compelling enough to make them engage in moving forward in their collective work. Stories with powerful narratives can join people together; offer a sense of place; and offer hope the purposeful action matters.